We were close to Shiro city when the Bakemono attack happened. So close to human city and attack for by beasts? Bad sign of bad times, yes? I healing who can be healed and Lion and Scorpion pile Bakemono carcass to burn. Ugh, what smell! But clear Te’Ka’s nose of the blood stench. Sad for lost humans. Sad for Te’Ka’Mok, but yes, Tomorrow comes and we no escape the doom. I live today, maybe die tomorrow. Eh. Until then I read and learn and complete Grandpa quest — protect Kaiu De. With life, if necessary.
Very nice when we enter city. People line and bow. Princess Kaiu De, father and number 1 maid, Shasuki, all greet us at door to big house. All are welcome. Even Nezumi. We given big room to ourselves. Rest, wash, eat. Then to be talking private with Princess and decide route to take for to go Lion country. Lions live north, long way. I never go there. Old Mir’Itus — he go all over — he never go there. “Gami-Gami, you go to north?” She no say much and I thinking to ask her this question. Yes? Who knows — she has secrets maybe.
Gami-Gami bowed head. “Mistress Rat. I have not to the great Lion gone. I hear, of course, the talk from monks at Temple of the Claw.” She paused, frowned. “Crab claw temple. Not Lion claw….. Crab claws, very different they are from lion. You see: cat family and the crustacean family.” She held up her hands, one and then the other. “They are two families.” She folded her hands in her lap.
“Thank you, Gami-Gami. I enlightened now. For sure.” She stood and bow to me. “At your service, Mistress.”
Later we meet again in chamber with large hang-ey lights. Candle-ears, I think they called in human speech. Not all Nezumi uncivilized. I read many-many books in English, just no practice for the speaking. Except Mir’Itus and he always correct pronouncing. Very annoying so I no do anymore.
We need go from Crab to Lion. Crane and Scorpion in between. Maybe more, too before we get there. How we go and not die in clan fight, that the question. Nya, she Scorpion but not dress like Scorpion. We travel safe with her there. But Crane to pass and other land, wild with humans.
Princess rise from seat. “My friends and companions. Thank you for taking me on this journey. How shall we travel? By what roads will I safely reach my betrothed?”
Tatsuoh quickly stood. “My lady. We traveled swiftly through the Shinomen Forest, just north of here. For safety’s sake, we should retrace our steps.” Mir’Itus and me, we exchange looks. Quick-quick travel for human, maybe. Ha! Shinomen Forest home of Naga. Only travel for Nezumi from Naga throat to Naga belly. I stand up. Bow to Princess and Lion Tatsuoh.
“Te’Ka’Mok would speak. No travel in Forest lands. Naga eat of the Nezumi.” I sat down. The Princess nodded at me. “Is this true? Is there danger for our non-human companions?” Nya rose. “My lady, if I may…? We would be three days and nights in the Forest. The Naga but barely rouse from slumber. These of our company (she wave at me and Mir’Itus) would be safe.”
The Princess turned to me. “How would you suggest we go?” I made a show of looking at the map. “Hmm, Grandpa want you go swiftly to marriage bed, yes? No misfortunes this time, hmmm? We go by river. Or sea.” They talked long about river or sea travel. Neiki, being of the Sea Spirit folk was excited for this idea. I not follow all that is said. People put stones on map to show place to go. Talk talk talk talk talk. Then: silent as Princess pick up stone.
“I would go here.” And she place stone in middle of Crab mountain pass. Lion clear his throat. “My lady –” She met his eyes and he stopped. “It is an ancient temple of fertility. I would make the sacrifices necessary for healthy children.”
Me, I could hear Granpa yelling at me in my mind. He no want to go that way. Long way round. Better down-down to sea and sail up to Lion land. Sail like Yasuki Fumoki, pirate Crab of old. No choice does Grandpa give me. I hold tight-tight to fingerbone. “Princess” I say loudly. “Princess, no worry for the children getting. Grandpa bids you go swift like seagull. No stop for fertility. Grandpa promise many-many babies and healthy from the big hips. Like you Ma-ma, yes? The big hips, easy way for babies…..” My voice trail off.
The Princess turned red and opened her mouth. But Nya turn to me first. “Ratling! How dare you speak!” She raised her hand to me. “How dare you speak of the Princess’ body! No one cares about your grandfather or your stupid Nezumi bone!” My turn to open mouth big.
Mir’Itus begin to try to explain. But Neiki stand and bow to Princess. “I believe that I can explain the outburst of our blessed shaman.” She turned and bowed to me. “The prowess of all Third Whisker shamen and Te’Ka’Mok, herself, is not lost on my folk. She carries a great burden and a great treasure, your Grace. That is the, um how to explain it? — the bone is the physical part of your revered Grandfather Kaiu Umasa. He is here with us, thanks to the gifts of this shaman. Heed her words, for they are the words of your ancestor.”
There was silence and then the Princess turn to me and bow low. “Thank you, Te’Ka’Mok for your wisdom. And thank you, Grandpa Kaiu Umasa for your love.” She stand straight. “But I will go to the temple and make the sacrifices. I will not go to my marriage bed without the blessings of the temple!” She folded her arms in triumph.
Hmmph. Stubborn like Grandpa, no doubt on that. I hear he chuckle with delight at granddaughter. He no anger-ey at her.
So it settle. We go south and turn east to mountain temple then to great river for to turn northward. For me, for Te’Ka, she glad to be far away from Naga forests. All else, is detail.
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